Monday, May 20, 2013

Overwhelmed, Stressed Out and Tired

There is no doubt about it, the end of the school year is OVERWHELMING!!!

There are too many final projects (mine and the kids) to be finished, too many gifts to buy, too many thank you's to write, too many memories to make, and too many summer activities to plan.  It is almost burdensome.  Ask any mom of school age kids how she is feeling about now and she will most likely use words like overwhelmed, stressed out, and tired.

And it's just not moms of school age children.  Ask a mom who has preschoolers, toddlers or little babies at home and they will tell you the same thing.  The days seem to last forever and the nights go by in the blink of an eye.  They are tired, overwhelmed and stressed out.  

Surely things get better when the kids get older, don't they?  Ask the mom whose child has just graduated from high school, the one who will be moving away from home for the first time in 3 short months.  I am guessing they too are scared, overwhelmed, stressed out and tired.

And I am willing to bet that it's not just moms. I imagine that dad's today are just as stressed.  It is not easy to provide in today's over consumed culture.  Bosses want 100% all the time, families need 100% all the time, and everything seems to require more time, more energy and more skill then most men could ever dream of having.

Maybe it will be easier when we are older, the kids are grown, college is paid for.  But I don't think it will be.  Not when the company you've given 25 years to decides to lay you off. Not when the spouse you have loved for 50 years passes away.  Not when the kids you gave everything to forget to call, not because they don't love you but just because, as I stated above, we are just too overwhelmed!!!

Have I painted a hopeless picture?  Are we simply destined to be stressed out, overwhelmed, and tired.  Are we all weary and burdened?

You know Jesus has something to say to those who are weary and burdened.  Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Okay, I know what you are thinking!  Yeah the rest part sounds wonderful, but you are simply not willing to carry anyone else's yoke right now, not matter how gentle or humble he may be or how easy the yoke is.  Your hands are full!  I get it!  But that's not quite what Jesus meant.  

You see there were many different kind of yokes during the time Jesus lived.  The Bible refers to "yoke" in several different contexts, the Egyptians held the Israelites in the "yoke" of slavery, oxen were sent under the "yoke" to plow the fields,  people "yoked" (or aligned) themselves to Baal.  In addition to these meanings, "yoke" was also used to refer to the teachings of a rabbi.  It was the way each individual rabbi would interpret the Torah.  It was the laws and customs that he felt were the most important to follow.  One would learn the "yoke" of a rabbi by asking him what the greatest commandment was.  This would let the people know which laws and rituals were the most important one to follow if you were going to follow that rabbi.  Some rabbi's had long, extensive and very complicated yokes. You think we are weary and burdened, trying doing all that you do today while following all the laws, sacrifices and rituals listed in the Old Testament.  THESE were weary and burdened people.  

So when Jesus told them that his yoke was easy and his burden was light he was referring to the greatest commandment.  Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul.  That is the first and the greatest commandment.  That is it, no laws, no sacrifices (Jesus took care of that), and no rituals, just love.  Put God before all else.  Then you will find peace.  Then you will find rest.  

When you are weary and burdened, and let's face it, we all are.  Come to Jesus.  Lay your burdens before him and you will find rest.  Learn from him, learn to give God all your heart, all your soul, all your mind.  And when you fail, let Jesus who is gentle and humble, help get you back on track.  In Him you will find rest for your souls.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Quiet Time

Quiet time.

The two things I have almost zero of in my life are quiet and time.

Between 3 kids, a very large, very old dog, an equally old and temperamental cat and a husband who travels, quiet and time are pretty hard to come by around here.  

But it is something we are called to do every day, to set aside some portion, some time, of our day and in quietness, connect with our creator.

It is very difficult to have a relationship with someone you only talk to once a week.  Trust me, I know this first hand.  Erik and I have to really work at staying in touch when he is on the road.  Neither of us are particularly good "phone people".  There are some people who can talk on the phone for hours, just like they were sitting right next to you having a cup of coffee.  That is not Erik nor me.  For us, our relationship is the strongest when we are face to face, sharing an experience.  Whether it is dinner with the family, a movie after the kids go to bed or working in the yard together, close proximity is how we connect.  

Maybe that is why I so easily understand just how important daily connection with God is.  There have been times in our 14 years of marriage when Erik was traveling week after week and we only talked once or twice during the whole week.  Let me tell you that was definitely one of our valley times.  It was just too hard.  So we both made the changes necessary to make our relationship stronger.  One of those things is consistently communicating with each other even when he is away from home.

My relationship with my savior is no different.  What relationship can not only survive, but strengthen and grow in only one hour a week?  Not very many.  Yes, you might have that friend whom you dearly love who moved out of state and now all you get is that one phone call on saturday morning to catch up.  But I would argue that those relationships are few and far between.  In order for a relationship to flourish, strengthen and grow, it takes time.  It takes commitment.  And it takes more than one hour a week.  

Doesn't the very one who created you deserve a little piece of each of your days?  After all, He is the reason you are here.  Even when we are short on quiet and/or time, our creator, redeemer and sustainer deserves our attention.  He deserves a part of each of our days, set aside just for him.  

He deserves our quiet time.  

Just you and the one who created you.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I am not a gentle person.  

I SO wish I was, but I'm not.  

The Bible has a lot to say about gentleness.  Sometimes it refers to a gentle tongue or gentle words (Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 25:15).  Sometimes it refers a person's spirit (1 Corinthians 4:21), the spirit of God (I Kings 19:2), or even Christ's spirit, "I am gentle and humble in heart," (Matthew 11:29).  Regardless of the reference, the Bible makes it clear that gentleness is somethings to be valued and admired.  It is a fruit of the spirit.  Something we should all possess through the Holy Spirit living in us.

So what does that mean when you are not a gentle person, like me?

Some people are naturally gentle, sensitive, and quiet.  Some of us are not.  I have spent a fair amount of time longing to be something I'm not.  I look at women who possess these innate characteristics that I do not and I am envious.  Gentleness comes so easy for them and it is SO HARD for me.  

There is a reason that God encourages us to be gentle.  More often than not the trouble that I get into is a direct result of my lack of gentleness.  I will speak harshly to someone who didn't deserve it.  I will rush through my day taking care of what I need to take care of, leaving a wake of people I rudely rushed by in my effort to get "the list" done.  If I would take the time to think about my words and actions, take the extra time to be gentle with those around me whom I love and treasure, I would most likely have a lot less tension in my life.  But I don't do those things, because I'm not a gentle person.

God didn't get it wrong, he didn't mess up when he made me.  He made me perfectly, just the way I am, my ungentle, hurried self.  And he will use me for his good, despite the fact that I am not gentle.  Just like he will use you, despite whatever your weaknesses might be.  
He will use my ungentle nature, just as he uses someone else's gentle nature. 

But don't get me wrong, along the way he will call me to be more.  He will call for me to be gentle even when I don't want to be.  I will have to repent for the times that my lack of gentleness hurt the people around me and I will have to seek forgiveness, from God and from others.  He will call for me to change my very nature from a selfish, harsh and hurried person to a gentle, sensitive and at times even quiet one.

It will be hard, because I am not a gentle person.  But it will be so worth it!

Friday, May 10, 2013

2 Corinthians 10:5

I have this vision of myself...30, 40, or (God-willing) 50 years from now.  I am this little old lady who can quote the bible like nobodies business.  Of course, I realized a few years ago that if I want to be this wise little old lady who knows scripture inside and out then I had better start memorizing some scripture!

So I did.  About 3 years ago I started diligently trying to memorize Bible verses.  I made flashcards of my favorite verses and started committing them to memory.  First one, then another, then I would work on 4-6 at a time.  I tried to learn 6 new verses a month.  I would review the ones I already knew making sure they stayed fresh in my mind.  Before I knew it I had a fair number memorized. So I started a new deck of flashcards and committed more to memory.  

I cannot tell you how profound this spiritual exercise has been for me.   It has brought the word into my  mind, my life and my very being, in ways I have never experienced before.  It is truly life changing.  It is hard to get lost in sin when you have Christ's words constantly running through your head. (Don't get me wrong, I still sin-just not quite as much!)

One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 10:5, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  This verse IS the reason I memorize scripture.  

There is so much in this world that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  The world tells us we don't look the way we should, we don't have the stuff we deserve, we haven't been treated the way we should be treated and we shouldn't forgive anyone for that.  But that goes against the very knowledge of God.  I know this because I KNOW what God says.  I have committed it to memory.  And when I take captive my thoughts and I make them obedient to Christ, focusing on HIS words and HIS truth.  Those arguments the world wants me to believe are demolished.

The Bible tells us that the word of God is our sword (Ephesians 6) and it absolutely is!  It is a sword I strap to my body every single day, and every single day I use it!  I encourage you to do the same.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:5

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Christian" Is a Verb

I live in the mid-west.  In the middle of the mid-west to be exact.  Right, smack-dab in the middle of the Bible-belt.  

I grew up believing that everyone I knew, and most of the people I didn't know, were Christians.  I believed that I didn't really need to tell the people around me about Jesus because everyone already knew who he was.  

What I didn't realize was that not everyone who knew whom Jesus was, was a Christian.  Knowing about Jesus doesn't make you a Christian, following Jesus does.  Don't for a second get those two confused.  I spent the majority of my life making that mistake.  

I knew who Jesus was, I even knew what he did for me, and I was thankful for it.  But I didn't follow him.  I didn't live my life like he would.  I didn't listen to his commands, do what he asked of me or even treat him like a friend.  I certainly knew who Jesus was, but was I Christian? I honestly don't know.  I believed I was.  I would have told you I was.  But there was very little evidence of that in my life.  

One of my very favorite Bible verses is Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  I had confessed with my mouth and I believed with my heart, but was that enough?  To tell you the truth I still don't honestly know the answer to that.  I believe that scripture with my whole heart and soul.  

But I also know that we are called to more than that.  Jesus says in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I say?" and he criticizes people for listening to his word and not obeying them.  That was ME!!!  Too often, it still is me! 

There are still so many things I don't know, so many answers I don't have.  But this is what I do know.  Being a Christian is not an adjective, it is a verb.  It is not a label, it is an action.  It is nothing something you say you are, it is something you do.  And it takes work.  A lot of work.  If being a Christian isn't hard for you sometimes, than you're not doing it right.  (that sounds  a little harsh, please read that gently)

The great thing about seminary is I am reading books I never would have read on my own.  Ignatius Loyola is a 16th century Catholic leader who founded the Jesuit order.  Left to my own devices, I don't usually do a lot of 16th century or Catholic reading, but I had to read him for class and  I really enjoyed what he had to say.  Loyola states that "willful acts of conversing with God require greater reverence then merely understanding."  Understanding who Jesus is, what he did, and what the Bible says about him is not enough.  In order to converse with God, to talk to him, and have a relationship with him, requires more than knowledge of him.  It takes reverence, and discipline.  Loyola goes on to say something along the lines of, you must exercise your spirit as you exercise your physical self.

To get physically stronger, you have to work out, it takes a time commitment.  To get intellectually stronger, you have to study, that too takes a time commitment.  To get spiritually stronger, you have to do the work, and it takes a time commitment.  

To be a Christian takes action, it means doing, it means listening and obeying.  And it takes time, it means putting other things aside and spending that time with God.  

So are you someone simply someone who knows whom Jesus is, or are you a Christian?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

When Faced with Correction

My oldest two children are just 18 months apart in age (I know, I know, please don't judge me). I can remember looking down at Nate (the younger one) when he was just weeks old and being AMAZED at how different he and Isabella were.  

I have an older brother myself, and really we aren't that similar.  We absolutely love each other and have a fair amount of things in common but we are really very different.  So I'm not sure why it amazed me so much that my own children would be so different, but for some reason this floored me!  And the fact that they were so different from the get go, even though they had the same DNA, even though I did nothing different during the respective pregnancies, even though they had relatively similar deliveries, they had distinct personalities from that very first night!  This amazed me!

Ironically, all three of my children, look amazing similar.  You can definitely tell they are all from the same family, their looks, their mannerisms, the words they say are all very similar.  But that is where the similarities end.  In many ways they are very, very different from each other.  

One of the big differences between them is the way they handle correction or discipline.  Isabella, generally speaking let's it roll of her shoulders.  She takes what you have to say, without any comments or emotional response.  Sometimes she will listen to what you have to say and make a change and sometime she won't, but this is all determined internally.  She has very little outward reaction to correction or discipline.  

Nate on the other hand is highly defensive.  Rarely does he agree that the correction or discipline is even needed.  IF it is needed, it is generally someone else who needs it.  There are few things that are actually Nate's fault.  His actions can always be explained and justified.  This makes taking correction very difficult for him.

JT handles it a third way.  To him correction or discipline is devastating.  It is emotionally gut wrenching for someone to tell him that he has done something wrong.  Not because it isn't his fault but because he desperately wants to do things right.  To tell him he has done something wrong will lead him to tears every time, even when he isn't in "trouble".  

Recognizing this in my children has led me to look at my own self.  How do I handle correction either from my spouse, friends or even from my God?  Am I receptive to it or do I internalize it, deny the need for it or break down when faced with it?

Honestly?  A little of all three.  There are times I just listen but don't really care, it may or may not make a difference in what I actually do.  Other times I am highly defensive, I feel justified in my actions and feel it was clearly someone else's fault.  Other times it is devastating.  To learn I did something wrong, hurt someone or messed up when I was trying to do the right thing, is very difficult for me to hear.  Unfortunately it happens more often than I would like, since I still struggle with controlling my tongue.  

The problem is that we do need to be corrected.  We are imperfect people who make mistakes, we mess up and we need correction and sometimes even discipline.  The question is, how will you take it?  Will you accept the correction?  Learn from it?  Even thank the person for taking the time to invest in you?  Or will you choose instead to be hurt, deny the need for it and ignore it?

Thursday, May 2, 2013



This simple word can hold so much emotion.

Hopefully, it brings a smile to your face, feels you with a warmth that touches your soul.

Home should be the place where you feel the safest, the place where you are the most yourself, and know you are loved unconditionally.  Home is a place you are free to make mistakes and are given grace more often than judgement.  Home is where you belong.

My home is in a suburb of Kansas City, where my family of five resides.  My home is not big, it is often messy and sometimes downright dirty.  It is almost always noisy.  And it is one of my favorite places in the world.  

Of course, you will also hear me say that I am going "home" every time I head to the small town I grew up in, even though I haven't lived there for almost 20 years.  In some ways, it will always be home.  It holds a part of my heart that I can only connect to when I am there.  

My parents moved into the house I grew up when I was one year old.  They moved out when I was 27.  To say that this is the home where I spent my formative years would be a gross understatement.  To this day when I dream, 90% of my dreams take place in that house, even when they involve people from my life now, who have no idea where Moundridge, KS even is.  Trust me, I know how strange that is!

Home, to me, is a wonderful place.  The mere word brings a smile to my face and puts warm fuzzies in my tummy.  But I know that is not the case for everyone.

For some, for too many, home is a place of pain, of hurt and suffering.  It is not a happy place.  It's not a place they want to be.  It's not where they belong.  

One of my husbands favorite songs is "Where I Belong" by Building 429.  The chorus goes something like this...

All I know is I'm not home yet
this is not where I belong
take this world and give me Jesus
this is not where belong

There is a home for each of us.  A home far better than any we have ever experienced here on Earth.  Regardless of how wonderful or awful your home here on Earth has become, it is not where you belong, not eternally.  It's not where you were created to be for all time.  You were made for so much more than this.  And THAT is where you belong, right beside you heavenly father.  He has created the most PERFECT home just for you.  It is a home where you will be loved unconditionally, treasured abundantly, and protected fiercely.  It is the one place you truly belong.  It is home.

Don't get caught up in this stuff here, this isn't home.  As much as I love the four walls surrounding me right now (on a snowy day in May????) this is not where I belong.  Some day, I will be up in heaven at the feet of my heavenly father and only then will I be home, right where I belong.